Where My Love For Writing & Thinking Meet

Manipulation in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
September 27, 2016, 3:47 am
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So I chose to write about something different than the options that were listed on our class homepage. I’d like to discuss, maybe even rant, about the manipulation that occurs in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. This is something that really bothered me throughout the text, and I guess it bothers me so greatly because it’s something that continues to happen even now. In the novel, the narrator is not only manipulated by the white race, but also those he should be able trust and call his own. However, there are multiple incidents where time to time again, his race has put one over him. It breaks my heart to see the narrator go from being such a naïve child to college student to someone who is in for a reality check.

Let’s take it from the beginning- the narrator takes you back in time to when he was a child. He was so excited to go deliver this speech, and instead he’s blindfolded and beat up. To make things even worse, they make the black children pick gold coins off an electrocuted rug. And this was supposed to be a good moment for him yet he’s treated with such disrespect for a drunk white man’s amusement; it’s sickening. But some good does come out of this night, right? He gets a scholarship to this college for black people. Wrong! Even there he seems to be treated with utmost disrespect, and he’s so annoyingly naïve about it. Like the whole time he’s driving Mr.Norton around, he wants to do everything so perfectly and is quick to silently curse himself for going down a certain path or wanting to fulfill his wish to drink whiskey, and what not. Then he gets freaking expelled for not painting this perfect black life for the founder like ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Life was far from perfect then because they still didn’t have equality, and he wants to put on this façade! Ugh so frustrating.

But the manipulation gets worse.. Hold on. After expelling him for no good reason, the President of the college swears he’ll help our narrator find a job through these recommendation letters he gives him to pass on to influential people in NY. But he explicitly tells our narrator not to open them like that’s not at all concerning or suspicious! And guess what? He’s not doing him a favor! He’s bashing him in these letters that the narrator had the decency to not open. Ugh ugh ugh. And then we have the brotherhood, but I’m going to stop here. It just really bothers me that he was so easily manipulated and that people are such jerks especially when he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. So dumb. –Over and out because this blog post/rant is getting too long, and I want you all to actually read this.

Consciousness Revisited Through Damasio’s and Dehaene’s Work
September 20, 2016, 4:17 am
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This week’s reading was interesting to me for so many reasons. It got me thinking of things I never thought I would. It made me realize I take things for granted without even realizing it. So without further ado, here’s this week’s response:

In Self Comes to Mind, Damasio defines consciousness as, “…not merely about images in the mind. It is, in the very least, about an organization of mind contents centered on the organism that produces and motivates those contents.” So to him, what exactly does this key term mean? Well having dug deeper in his work, he discusses the attitude towards consciousness and how we must experience, influence, and acknowledge it exists. His latter point of acknowledging that consciousness, this thing our mind is capable of constructing, really took me a minute to digest. Without our consciousness, would we be able to label our emotions and the connotations they bring? Without our consciousness, would we have a sense of self or anything else for that matter? And this struck me because you would never think of consciousness or the mind as something you could possibly take for granted.. I mean, if your thoughts have no meaning, if the emotions you’re feeling have no impact on you, then what’s even the point?

And in Dehaene’s work, he discusses this key term, consciousness, to be the sense of self. Though he continues to build upon this key term throughout his work, it seems that a lot of ideas seem to come back to just that. For example, in his introduction on page 7 he talks about how or if our consciousness would change if we were born in a different era or a different body. Would our sense of self change? And I think for me personally this question is easy to answer. OF COURSE! If I was born in a different household or during a different time period or anything that remotely changes my reality, my sense of self without a doubt would change.

Both authors really get the readers thinking and visualizing; I think I enjoyed that aspect of that reading the most. It was also interesting to see both authors break apart and then build on this key term throughout their work.

Hysteria-A New Way to Read The Yellow Wallpaper
September 12, 2016, 9:09 pm
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When I originally read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I interpreted it as a text that shows how oppressed the writer is. She is unable to make life choices until she gets well again. She is not allowed to write, and if caught, she would deal with seemingly severe consequences. So when I initially encountered this text, I concluded that the narrator loses herself (and her mind) because she has no sense of control in her life. I believed this caused her to become “crazy.”

However, revisiting this text after reading The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt, I am starting to see this text under a new lens. It seems as like the unnamed narrator/writer suffers from hysteria. It has come to my attention that the narrator suffers from “severe fright or powerful emotion.” She writes very calmly, and then all of a sudden there is a shift in her mood. For example, on page 648 of our reading, she is talking about how she asked, John, her husband, to shut the window. Then she transitions into a new paragraph where she talks about how unreasonably upset she gets with him sometimes. She believes it’s due to her “nervous condition,” which I originally read as another way she is oppressed because she has to eliminate her emotions by taking meds that make her tired. It’s as if she’s not allowed to do and feel without his consent.

But now I no longer see this text as gothic literature written by a feminist journalist; it has now become a short story that raises awareness about hysteria that the narrator suffered through the use of her journal entries.

The Funeral: In The Shape of A Lyrical Poem
September 5, 2016, 7:03 pm
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Written in an ABABCDCD rhyme scheme by the 16th century British poet, John Donne, takes his readers on an emotional journey in The Funeral. Through its title, it is evident that a funeral is taking place. This becomes more transparent as we read the poem and learn that the speaker of this poem is talking to those who come to visit his body. In the first stanza, he asks the people not to question or disfigure the lock of hair that sits in his arm. He suggests that the lock of this girl’s hair (that we later find out he’s obsessed with) may literally keep his outward soul from disfiguring. In other words, this is his charm that will keep his body from decomposing. While some may find this romantic, this is completely absurd and creepy.

Moving on to the next stanza, he compares himself to a prisoner. He talks about how strength, art, and hair grew from her brain so they’re better. Again, this comes off as sweet, but not for long since this is where there is a shift in the tone. Here he starts to sound vengeful, as he starts off the next stanza by saying bury her harsh words with me. He tries to sound as if he doesn’t care, but he cares so much that he is dying in the name of love. He is a martyr of love. But this is no longer sweet as he is taking a part of her to his grave, since she wouldn’t accept him. It’s as if he’s punishing her like HA-HA.

For the average reader, this poem goes from “aw I feel bad for him” to “wow this dude needs help” in the matter of 3 stanzas. He couldn’t accept being rejected so to torment his beloved, he decided to commit suicide and take a part of her with him. To make it creepier, I wonder if the speaker is a ghost or has he left this poem as a letter next to his open casket. Regardless of how you unpack the poem, it is clear that this is a lyrical poem. It is packed with several emotions from line to line, and you can read it many different ways, thus feeling a variety of emotions every step of the way.

Thinks… Has My Thoughts Scattered
September 2, 2016, 1:10 pm
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David Lodge’s Thinks… is a soft neuronovel. For me, this was an interesting text. This sort of literature definitely falls under a genre I have never read before. This novel has two protagonists, Helen and Ralph, who work at the University of Gloucester. Besides that, they don’t seem to have much in common. The text seems to play with this concept; they are an inverse of one another. This occurs throughout the reading, literally and figuratively. To start off, the science and the arts buildings are on the opposite ends of the campus. And then we have the way that they think about certain things, personalities, and careers. Ralph Messenger is a science professor, and a scientist who seems to see the world in black and white. To him, science explains everything. This makes him reductive, but I’ll get into that later. Then we have Helen who is a widowed novelist who is teaching English. She thinks a bit more complicated than Ralph does. Her thoughts come back to emotional reasoning (SHOCKER), but she also doesn’t embody reductionism.

Just to backtrack, Roth summarizes reductionism through Raymond Tallis. According to him, this theory means that the behavior of humans solely comes back to making it from day in to day out, surviving. But is it that simple? In “Rise of the Neuronovel,” Roth shares an email that his friend sent him in regards to a date. In excoriating detail, everything is broken down from menstrual cycle to facial expressions. Has falling in love ever been scientific? It is evident that this has been psychoanalyzed, but to me it’s not that simple. It’s not just about procreating, and it can be argued that this isn’t even essential to our survival.

However coming back to reductionism, when Ralph wants to have sex with Helen, reductive ideas come into play. For Ralph, sleeping with Helen doesn’t seem complicated. It’s black and white. He wants to have sex, but Helen is the polar opposite once again. She has a lot to consider like her emotions, late husband’s affair, and so forth. Another example where reductionism comes into play is when Helen asks Ralph about his soul, spirit, and self. He doesn’t dig deep; he believes “…those are just ways of talking about certain kinds of brain activity. When the brain ceases to function, they necessarily cease too.” Again, is it really that simple? Does our brain or mind create this phenomenon? If so, how effectively does faith really help us survive?


Side Notes:

-Roth says that neuronovels “shift away from environmental and relational theories of personality back to the study of brain themselves” (1). And David Lodge manages to do this in a very subtle way through Ralph Messenger. I mean he is after all obsessed with his thoughts, cognition and what not.

– According to Thinks…, the human consciousness is a large white blob on the map of human knowledge. I can’t help but read into the use of the color ‘white’. It is interesting to note that this specific color has a positive connotation. Like why use the color that represents purity, innocence, etc.?

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